Philadelphia’s ‘People’s Budget Festival’ sparks conversation with arts and food

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A group of Philadelphia artists bet that even a topic as dense as city budgeting can be interesting if it’s discussed around tamales and art.

A People’s Budget, a project sponsored by Mural Arts Philadelphia in collaboration with various Philadelphia artists, is hosting a festival this Saturday, May 14 in West Philly to encourage the community to openly discuss the city’s budget.

“While budgets are complex financial documents,” notes the project’s website, “they are also a mission statement for the city – a real record of public servants’ priorities.”

City Council holds hearings on Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed spending plan until May 25

Held at the Kingsessing Rec Center in Southwest Philadelphia, the event will allow community members and beneficiaries to list their demands, encourage residents to show up for hearings, and prepare for next year’s budget. .

The event will be in English but will be translated live into Spanish. Thanks to the local collective Mercado de Latinas, there will also be a free lunch; pupusas, tamales, tlacoyos and a variety of desserts. Vendors will also sell craft items and tupperware. After the discussion, there will be live music and budget-related games.

The two-year project collaborates with local artists Blanche Browne, Samantha Rise, Maia Chao and Eugenio Salas to reimagine the five main components of Philly’s budget:

  • how we trade and manage
  • how we heal and protect our community
  • how we learn and grow
  • how we live and share space
  • how we govern and administer.

Each artist visualized one of the budget items through their own art form to investigate the issues facing the community and how to address them.

Salas creates a symbolic map of different restaurants in the Italian market to better understand how immigrant businesses shape the community, reduce food insecurity, and provide relevant cultural experiences and connections.

Salas surveyed many businesses in the area to see what kind of government assistance they receive and to visualize the impact these businesses have on the community.

“The idea was to create a feeling about the history and the contribution that the Mexican immigrant community makes with food to give the neighborhood its identity,” Salas said. “More than his identity, he also gets a lot of support from real estate, they see it as an advantage, but no one who participates in this economy gets an advantage.”

What Salas refers to is sometimes called the “informal economy” – economic activities, businesses, jobs and workers that are not regulated or protected by the state. This is how more than 2 billion workers in the world earn their living. Most have low wages, lack institutional protections, and have no contractual benefits or rights, but all lack social protections.

The People’s Budget is a way for Salas and his fellow artists and activists to help the community get the benefits they deserve and may not know how to ask for, he said.

Eugenio Salas

Salas knew that for such an important event he needed food. He reached out to Reyna Navarro, the creator of Mercado de Latinas, a group of vendors selling Mexican food and crafts, to organize the event and provide them with a space to sell their wares.

The Mercado de Latinas started during the pandemic to help women entrepreneurs sell their food and artisan products. They combine in-person and online opportunities to support women-led businesses.

This collaboration was an opportunity not only to support those who contributed to the economy, but also to allow them to discuss what they need from the city.

“Latino communities are already a minority and they face their own challenges, but being a woman there are even more barriers for them,” Salas said. “There aren’t many opportunities for them to work because they have complicated lives as immigrants and as mothers.”

the People’s Budget Festival takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at 4901 Kingsessing Avenue. Participation is free, lunch being served. There will be an on-site craft market; be sure to bring cash. .

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